Love is Strong
Love is going to my family’s potlatch in Alert Bay
I stand with my dad, mom, papa, brother and sister,
Everyone greets me and I am warm inside
I smell burning fire,
It smells like home
It smells like my name: Keeper of the Fire
(this is an important job)
Love is the smell of this fire,
A smell as strong as lavender.
I see red, and orange and black
I hear my papa speaking, singing
I see him dancing.
I love our ways of doing things…
I am Namgis and Sayisi Dene
Lucy, also known as Firekeeper (Kwak’wala: ḵ̓ ix tła̱lag̱a), is 9 years old from Victoria, B.C. in Coast Salish territory. She is Namgis on her father’s side and Sayisi Dene on her mother’s side. She loves to go on Tribal Journeys, to draw and spend time with her family and her dog. This is her first published piece of writing. She dictated this piece to her teacher, Tasha Henry.
Note from Lucy’s teacher, Tasha Henry
As a teacher, it is imperative that we find moments to help children retrieve and express the worlds that reside in their hearts. Often these worlds are revealed through art, working with our hands and, if we are lucky, through words, both written and spoken. For this poem, I asked Lucy to close her eyes and go straight to the place where her heart feels big and warm. In this place, what did she feel, smell and hear? Who stood with her, beside her? As her words came, Lucy could feel the strength of her cultural identity embracing her through images and memories.
As Lucy closed her eyes, she could feel, with all her senses, her definition of love, big and real, lived and
remembered. By being there, she was writing herself into her family story. When her mom read her poem that
night, she revealed that “she speaks of her papa, who is now in the spirit world.” For Lucy, her connections to her ancestors, who continue to love and protect her, are synonymous with the smell of the burning wood in the centre of the Big House. The fire is her namesake and the centre of her experience as herself, out in the world. Her family and community have given her this place in her being; a place she can retreat to at any given moment, to give her fortitude, pride and the feeling of being beloved on this earth. As a teacher, I wish this place of knowing for all children; this place in the heart, where love is the landscape.
Artwork: “Sunset” by Lisa Delorme Meiler.